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Today in Blue Jays History: Kelly Gruber Hits for Cycle

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

34 Years Ago Today

Kelly Gruber hits for the first cycle in Blue Jays’ history. Since then, Steve Frye and Cavan Biggio has done it for the Jays.

We were playing the Royals and won big 15-8.

Gruber hit:

  • A home run in the first inning off Royals starter Alan Bannister.
  • A double in the second inning, again off Bannister.
  • In the fourth inning, he struck out.
  • In the fifth inning, he lined out.
  • A triple in the seventh off Tom Gordon.
  • A single in the eighth off Jerry Don Gleaton.

Kelly went 4 for 6 with 6 RBI.

He had a great start to the 1989 season. Coming into the game, he was hitting .385/.457/.538. The game bumped his lineup to .422/.481/.689.

Kelly would finish the season at .290/.328/.448 with 18 home runs. Baseball Reference has him at a 5.0 WAR (in 1990, he would hit .274/.330/.512 with 31 home runs and hit bWAR was 4.2). FanGraphs has him at a 3.9 WAR in 1989 and a 4.3 WAR in 1990.

The lineups that day:


Lloyd Moseby, CF

Kelly Gruber, 3B

Pat Borders, C

George Bell, LF

Fred McGriff, 1B

Jesse Barfield, RF

Bob Brenly, DH

Manuel Lee, SS

Tom Lawless, 2B


Willie Wilson, CF

Kevin Seiter, 3B

George Brett, 1B

Danny Tartabull, RF

Bill Buckner, DH

Bo Jackson, LF

Bob Boone, C

Bill Pecota, 2B

Brad Wellman, SS

Dave Stieb got the start. He would only last 8 batters and only got 1 out. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks and 6 earned. His start before that was a complete game 1 hitter, and his start after was 8 innings, 4 hits. I don’t know what went wrong this day (he threw a 1-hitter in his previous start).

David Wells came in. He gave up a 2-run single to add to Stieb’s count. He would go 4 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 earned, 1 walk with 3 strikeouts. Tony Castillo pitched the last 4.2 innings, allowing 2 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts with no earned runs. Wells got the win, and Castillo got a 4.2-inning save, his first and only save of the season. He would pitch 17 games for the Jays that year and have a 6.11 ERA before being traded to the Braves in August. We hot Jim Acker in return.

Some other Jays hitters had good days:

  • Pat Borders went 2 for 6, both doubles, with 2 RBI.
  • George Bell went 3 for 5, with 2 doubles, a walk, and 2 RBI.
  • Fred McGriff went 2 for 4, with a home run, 2 walks, and 2 RBI.
  • Jesse Barfield went 2 for 5, with a home run and 3 RBI.

On the KC side:

  • Floyd Bannister got the start. He went 1.2, and gave up 9 hits, including the Gruber home run, 6 earned with 1 strikeout.
  • Bret Saberhagen pitched the net 2.1 with 3 hits, 3 earned, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. He gave up Barfield’s home run. He got the loss.
  • Jeff Montgomery went 2 innings and allowed 3 walks with 2 strikeouts and no runs.
  • Tom Gordon pitched 1 inning and gave up 2 hits, 3 earned, 3 walks with 2 strikeouts.
  • Jerry Don Gleaton pitched the 8th. He gave up 3 hits, 3 earned, 1 walk.

On offense:

The Royals scored 8 runs without hitting a home run.

George Brett went 3 for 5. The Hall of Fame third baseman played first base most of that season. He was 34 by then.

Brad Wellman went 3 for 3 before coming out of the game for a pinch-hit appearance by Pat Tabler (he struck out).

Two sport star, Bo Jackson, went 1 for 3, with 2 walks. Jackson hit .256/.310/.495 with 32 home runs. He led the league in strikeouts with 172. Jackson (who our Bo was named after) had a 2.7 bWAR. He had an excellent 1990 season too, but in 1991 he hurt his hip playing football. The injury ended his football career. He played baseball for a couple more seasons but wasn’t the same player.

Not that it matters, but Tom Lawless is one of those players that Minor Leaguer would have in a Sporcle quiz, and I would never come up with the name.

Lawless had an eight-year MLB career, the last two with the Blue Jays. He was a utility player who played every position except for SS and C. Career, he hit .207/.263/.258 in 343 games. I do remember having his baseball card.

18 Years Ago

Reed Johnson tied an MLB record by being hit by pitch 3 times in a game against the Rangers. He was hit by 16 pitches that season. In 2006, he led the league by being hit 21 times. In his five years with the Jays, he was hit 80 times.

You’ll likely remember he had a way of leaning into a close pitch, which greatly helped out his OBP. He didn’t walk as much as we might like for a guy who hit the top of the order. In his rookie season, he walked 20 times and was hit 20 times, which I’d imagine has happened all that often in the majors.

Reed was a favourite of mine.